Harlem means business - or at least Mayor Scott Dean wants it to. The recently elected mayor spearheaded a breakfast Saturday morning at B.G.'s Deli and Catering in an effort to bring together Harlem business owners with city officials and local agencies.
About 50 people attended the two-hour session, hearing presentations from representatives of the Columbia County and Metro Augusta chambers of commerce, the Regional Development Commission, the Columbia County Development Authority and the newly formed Harlem Historic Preservation Commission.
"We're here to help y'all," Dean told the business owners.
His own presentation highlighted the $300,000 state grant that is expected to revamp Harlem's downtown area - taking away some street-side parking in the beautification effort, but creating a new city parking lot next to the railroad tracks on the east side of the street.
"One of our priorities for the city is to provide parking for the businesses," Dean said. Mayor Pro Tem Robin Root added, "We want people to come downtown and shop."
To attract more shoppers, the city needs more businesses and a higher profile for those already open. The Columbia County chamber's Shawn Hackett and Terra Jones told business owners about the benefits of networking with other chamber members - especially now that Columbia County has incorporated its own chamber.
"The chamber has refocused its purpose on small businesses," Hackett said. "That's our bread and butter."
The RDC's Andy Crosson had a tougher sales pitch.
"Probably 90 percent of the people in the room don't know who we are or what we do," he admitted before explaining that the regional agency works with governments on development projects. But the agency also has an arm that assists small businesses with start-up costs.
Dean said he was "encouraged" by turnout at the session.
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